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June 06, 2011

My cat thinks he's a dog

Playing around with my new camera decided to test the video capability so here is evidence that my cat thinks he is a dog.

May 25, 2010

Dodgy paid web Ads

As some people may know , in my spare time I look after a number of websites for a some local musicians and a local venue and record label.  Recently I was forwarded an email by the site owner for my opinion from someone at linkstar.co.uk offering to pay $200/ year to put a simple text link and small bit of text on a particular page for one of their clients. Why someone would offer to pay that much without even knowing how many vistors the page gets (very few as it is not the main page) is is suspicious. Obviously they are actually after the search engines rather than real visitors.

My attitude generally is that the only ads  I would even consider putting on are for organisations with which the site owner has an existing relationship with. A quick google search suugests that linkstar's method of business is slightly dubious but they do pay,though why a supposedly british company would quote payment to anotherv uk site in $ is suspicious. I expressed my reservations but obviously he persued it further as today he forwarded a further email to me with the details of the proposed ad.  At this point it gets even more suspicious as the link is for a US based hearing aid company, the supplied paragraph of accompanying text came with a disclaimer about being translated from Chinese (which shows) and the relevance of the ad to the page on which it was to be placed was tenuous. However at first glance it still wasn't obvious where the scam was.

Closer investigation of the linked to page reveals why they are trying to direct traffic to this particular site. Adblock blocked to items related to atdmt which apparently is a very annoying bit of malware should you unwitingly get it on your system.  Wether the company is an unwitting, unknowing or deliberate participant is unknown. their site may have been hacked, or they may think they are just participating a scheme to boost their site hits. Either way I will refuse to put the up.

November 30, 2009

A Groovy Move

Its been a while, but I'm back.  The blog will now be updated a little more frequently, and be a blend of work and non-work stuff.  In particular, I intend to comment (slightly humorously, I hope) on examples of good and bad quality as I encounter them.  Read on for episode 1...

So, we moved house over the summer. Why do the normal rules of politeness and reasonableness seem to go out of the window during this process? Why, for instance, did our purchasers insist that the only day they could possibly move as the middle of our week’s holiday in Wales? A moment later, they assured us, and they would spontaneously combust. We broke the holiday. Our children cried. We came back. We moved out. They moved in. Approximately 1 month later.

Add to this the news that our new house had a kitchen extension with a roof made of gingerbread, or something, which would entail us paying some cheerful but borderline incompetent builders to pop round most days for a month, drinking our tea and criticising our biscuits and our joy was complete.

The one bright spot in the perfect storm of minor irritations, purchaser skulduggery and general mean-spiritedness associated with all dealings with our fellow human beings in general, and house buying in particular, came from a rather unexpected source.

When my wife suggested we get a quote from a removal firm called ‘Groovy Movers’ I have to say I was sceptical. For some reason it conjured images of Shaggy and Scooby making mile-high sandwiches in our kitchen while we piled our own stuff in the back of the Mystery Machine. Possibly harassed by some form of fake supernatural being. Or maybe a bunch of aging hippies gyrating their way to the van to a 70’s soul/funk backing track whilst carrying various of our household nick-knacks. Actually I quite liked that idea.

The weird thing about ‘Groovy Movers’ is that they actually made the process of moving an absolute joy. Yes, you read that right, “a joy”, not tolerable or minimally irritating but an actual pleasurable experience. They brought a sense of fun to the whole (normally) sorry affair. From gently ribbing us during the (excellent) pre-packing process, to giving the kids rides on the tail-lift and performing cod feng shui on our pot-plants in the back garden, they kept us entertained the whole time - while still managing to be ruthlessly efficient in getting the job done.

For readers (yeah, like there’s more than one of you) who don’t know, I teach quality and customer service. Good examples are hard to come by, and I really wasn’t expecting to find one while moving house.  Now, if only they can get their backing track sorted out…

November 06, 2009

and so another day begins

Its been a long time coming but here at last you can feel the onset of winter. This morning on the way into work it was cold, misty and there was a just a hint of frost – fantastic! I love sharp mornings.

early morning near Shustoke, Warks

and so another day begins

November 04, 2009

Costly – I dont think so

Follow-up to Toyota Blues from 353 Rant and Rave

For information, the Toyota F1 budget was estimated to be around $300 million. This accounts for about 0.1% of their revenue, hardly a significant amount in the context of the Worlds largest automaker. As a proportion of their losses it amounts to about 6% so a bit more of a cost but now they aren’t able to suggest in any way that they have a racing pedigree, and they wont get any television advertisng – Oh how Honda must be crying in their beer this year – will we say the same about Toyota next year?

Toyota = DULL DULL DULL is that what they want to say?

FI is it Costly – I dont think so

Toyota Blues

So, the inevitable has happened and Toyota F1 have left the room.

Only this morning I was writing some lecture notes on the subject of cultural transformation and lean and added a slide with Toyota F1 as the subject.

The Toyota F1 team failed to win a single race in 139 attempts (or rather just under 278 given that there are two cars in a team) – pathetic.

Why? why with all the money they spent, having hired designers with a good track record and with half-decent drivers, did they fail so badly?

Where is their long-term commitment? They started in 2001 so that is only 8 years – small beer compared to their much promoted long-term outlook in other aspects of their business. On the same day GM have announced that they won’t sell-off the Opel and Vauxhall operations after all, Toyota follow Honda down the road of surrender (unlike them surely).

Could it be that the Toyota Way just isn’t the way to achieve success in F1? And if so, why did Toyota start down this path in the first place? Could they not see that F1 is a dynamic, innovative and individualistic enterprise. The formula is always changing, from year to year there are changes in what you can and cannot do. Could they not see that their culture is not suited to F1. Were they so naive as to not recognise this at the outset or did they think that their methods were so superior that success was inevitable?

I’m sad that Toyota have succumbed to short-term pressures. This puts into doubt much of what observers say is special about them. I hope that the team get saved because there is a base on which to build. I’m sad that Toyota haven’t been able to learn how to win in F1, I expected more of them. I wonder what is going to happen to Kobayashi who seems a worthy contender.

Having said this, a little part of me is shouting Yes Yes Yes. There is a place still for the enthusiastic amateur, the passionate entreprenuer, the techno/political genius who is prepared to do the whacky thing and make it work. The small guy who just wants to race.

Lastly though I am left with a feeling of disappointment, a feeling of Toyota Blues.

July 03, 2009

Myspace and Paypal

It appears that Myspace have deliberately broken 'Buy Now' buttons so that they no longer work. Searching on Google sugests that this has been happening for just over a month, though most people are still unaware of this.

I only found out this morning after a local musician contacted me to say neither of the ones on her page were working. The one has been there over a year and used to work, the second I added last night for her.

For musicians who have their own websites as well the solution is fairly simple, just edit the button link to redirect to their own merchandise page, as I have done in this case. Unfortunately I am not aware of a simple solution at the moment for the significant number of musicians who do not have a suitable page elsewhere.

February 10, 2009

Coincidences and the power of the internet

For a few years now I have been helping my Mother to discover the family tree, making use of the ever increasing resources on the internet. The results of all this are stored on the ancestry.co.uk website, as this is where most of the information comes from occasionally transferred to my page on genesreunited as that seems  to generate more contacts. Apart from my Mothers Maternal grandfather I have been reasonably successful tracing back to the early/mid 1700's.

Just after Christmas I recieved a contact via ancestry from a lady in Texas who had found a photo of her Grandmother (sister of my Fathers Grandmother) and my Fathers Great-Grandmother attached to my tree, enquiring if I had any more photos that may be of interest as she had little information on that side of the family as her Grandmother had died in 1908 while her father was still young. 

Last week, having finally got back from holiday in Spain my Mother got round to checking. Initially this caused some confusion as my Father claimed his Nan didn't have a sister, which shows how much notice he normally takes in the work my Mother and I have been doing. He did however remember the lady who contacted me, her parents and sister, however he hadn't realised that they were related and thought they were just close family friends.

Following the exchange of a few more emails, the biggest coincidence is that this lady's Mother and sister both live in Kettering, which is also where my parents have been for the last 25+ years. 

Also locally there are a couple of relatives from my Dad's Fathers side who he sees around quite often, who had also contacted me independently via one of the websites without realising who I was. Since all my fathers relatives were from around High Wycombe it is quite a coincidence that 50 years after moving away from his birthplace he should end up in  the same town as several of his relatives in a different part of the country.

September 24, 2008

How not to do customer service

About 3 weeks I submitted an online support request to Philips via their website concerning my DVD/ Harddisc recorder. Acording to their website they should send some sort of response within a few hours. Until today I hadn't even received an acknowledgement and what to a get? An email asking me to complete an survey to tell them what I thought about their customer service and how they could improve it.

My responses were remarkably polite, bet they still don't actually bother to respond to the original query though.

September 20, 2008

Tesco are taking the piss

I know people  complain about christmas being promoted earlier every year but this is taking it too far. All the fresh bread in tesco this morning is packaged like this. 


July 03, 2008

Yahoo slurp– waste of bandwidth

Looking at the stats for a couple of websites I administer I have noticed that Yahoo Slurp uses an unfeasibly large amount of bandwidth compared to all the other crawlers despite actually providing very few visitors.

In the worst case for one site last month (www.tinangelrecords.co.uk) slurp used 1000 times the bandwidth of google, yet produced only 1/20th of the number of visits, it was also responsible for almost 1/3 of the total site bandwidth. Fortunately at the moment bandwidth isn't a problem, however if it should become one then the first thing I will do is just block  slurp  as the number of lost visitors doesn't justify the effort required to work out how to simply limit the amount of robot traffic generated by it.

Robots/Spiders visitors (Top 25)   -   Full list   -   Last visit
12 different robots* Hits Bandwidth Last visit
Yahoo Slurp 1003 429.59 MB 30 Jun 2008 - 23:10
MSNBot 223 782.52 KB 30 Jun 2008 - 23:54
Unknown robot (identified by 'spider') 166 444.09 KB 30 Jun 2008 - 23:10
Googlebot 113 411.59 KB 30 Jun 2008 - 10:43
Ask 80 777.73 KB 30 Jun 2008 - 03:50
Unknown robot (identified by 'robot') 61 4.20 MB 30 Jun 2008 - 20:46
MSNBot-media 60 518.56 KB 30 Jun 2008 - 03:35
Unknown robot (identified by 'bot/' or 'bot-') 17 75.99 KB 28 Jun 2008 - 23:25
Alexa (IA Archiver) 11 79.67 KB 24 Jun 2008 - 13:52
Unknown robot (identified by 'crawl') 11 39.39 KB 30 Jun 2008 - 03:00
Voila 6 16.48 KB 26 Jun 2008 - 03:12
Google Sitemaps 1 263 Bytes 25 Jun 2008 - 08:54
Connect to site from
Origin Pages Percent Hits Percent
Direct address / Bookmarks 915 68.6 % 1044 64.5 %
Links from a NewsGroup
Links from an Internet Search Engine - Full list
- Google 216 217
- Google (Images) 35 61
- Yahoo! 13 13
- Windows Live 13 13
- MSN Search 2 2
- Tiscali 1 1
- AOL 1 1
- Ask 1 1
- Sogou 1 1
- Google (cache) 0 4
283 21.2 % 314 19.4

May 08, 2008

More music

Writing about web page http://www.kristygallacher.com

It's been a long time since I've bothered putting anything on here so here's a plug for an event I have been asked to do the sound for.

kristy flyer

Kristy is one of the best local musicians around here at the moment and is organising this as part of her degree at Coventry university. 

Justine runs an acoustic night every Wednesday , for which I look after the sound. Relaunching  after a short break at a new venue The Escape bar on 21st May, with a couple of featured artists and an open mic every week.

They also do chinese food in the Hope and Anchor, which is just as well as it means I can get some food after the soundcheck as I won't have time to eat beforehand.

April 30, 2008


Apparently the University is planning to harmonise something. I don’t know what is being harmonised but think this may be it….

...I think we are all going to be given special discounts on Jaguar motor cars and as a test of this Porters have been allocated ‘S’ class Jaguars to replace their existing vans – good luck to them but I would’ve thought that a more environmentally sensitive solution would be for senior officers to be given vans.

Spotted today on Library Rd today:

First park your car

and in the window

February 15, 2008

How to annoy a cat

This week it was time for Kelvin's annual visit to the vets, always timed for first thing in the morning  so I know  where he is.

Take 1 cat and a carrier 

kelvin pre-carrier + the carrier

combine with lots of swearing and struggling. End result is one slightly shredded hand and one very pissed off cat who didn't stop complaining for the entire journey down to the Vets.


He legged it straight out the catflap when we got back home. By the time I got back home in the evening he had decided to be friends again.

Sucking his paw

January 10, 2008

It really isn't rocket science

Two rants:
  • Gina McKee! Learn to speak English!
  • C4, if you are going to make a serious programme about the end of the World (1983: The Brink Of Apocalypse January 5 2008, at 7.30pm.) then employ a narrator who can pronounce the word nuclear and not someone who says “nucular”.
  • “New Clear”, its not difficult.

Mathematics Dept. I thought you were brainy types. Why then, in seminar room MS.B3.03, is the data lecturn on the left side of the room and the data projector on the right side (a good 10m away)?

It really isn’t rocket science.

December 13, 2007

UK Student VISAs

Follow-up to Its Balls Ed but not as we know it from 353 Rant and Rave

Its not a rumour, its true.

See the guidance notes published by Her Majestry’s Government at

However, I’m not absolutely sure about the number of existing Visa Application Centres (VAC) in China will be providing the biometric scanning. The most recent information I could find was:

  1. Beijing,
  2. Shenyang,
  3. Jinan,
  4. Wuhan,
  5. Shanghai,
  6. Hangzhou,
  7. Nanjing,
  8. Guangzhou,
  9. Shenzhen,
  10. Fuzhou,
  11. Chongqing and
  12. Chengdu.

So perhaps it wont be quite so bad – it will still be a nightmare though.

December 11, 2007

Its Balls Ed but not as we know it

Rave of the day are the images of noctilucent clouds that were referred to on the BBC News website today. I chose one as my new desktop wallpaper and its looks pretty neat. I never get tired of just looking at nature.

Rant of the day is really rant of the last few days (well, just one of them if the truth be told – I really am getting to be a grumpy old git). From rumours I’ve heard it seems the government is doing its best to destroy the University system in the UK by making it difficult for overseas students to come here. Now, no doubt they will say that it has something to do with Homeland Security but if so are they over-reacting, has the knee jerked a bit too far? Will we partly secure ourselves from a limited threat whilst at the same time undermining the nation’s place in the World.

Are we cutting off our nose to spite our face

The gist of what I’ve heard is that:
  1. Student Visas will only be granted for unconditional offers
  2. Visa applicants will need to be fingerprinted
The problems:
  1. Unconditional offers can only be made after exam results are known so this means visa applications can only start then. ... so, the Immigration officials will have to process pretty much all the students in an 8 week period just when they are all taking holidays – Brilliiant!
  2. Fingerprinting can only take place in a very limited number of places – fine if you live in Singapore but crap if you live in China where students may need to travel hundreds of miles to get a print before completing their application and probably finding that the queues stretch to … Singapore.

Back to my original point…Due to chronic underfunding, the University system here in the UK depends on the income generated by overseas students. China is far and away the biggest source of these students. We really have a problem with ‘anti-social’ behaviour from China don’t we? We can really do without them can’t we? Can we? We really don’t need a healthy higher education system (where will provide all these teachers Masters courses that Ed Speaks Balls – his Lakota Sioux name- is on about? China perhaps – ooops thats another rant).

Oh well, here’s sock of the day.
Its Balls Ed but not as we know it.

November 30, 2007

FastHosts are a [CENSCORED]

Writing about web page http://www.covscene.co.uk

I help administer Covscene, a local music website. When I got home last night I logged on as usual to check the forums and delete any spammers before going to bed only to be greeted with and error page because it couldn't connect to the database. The person who actually pays for the hosting was on MSN at teh time so I chatted with her to discover that  this had been the case for  a few hours by this point. Whilst chatting she recieved the following email from Fasthosts.

From: Fasthosts [mailto:noreply@fasthosts.co.uk]
Sent: 30 November 2007 00:52
To: xxxxxx@covscene.co.uk
Subject: Important information about your Fasthosts account

Dear Customer,

We wrote to you on 18th October 2007 advising that you change all of the
passwords on your Fasthosts accounts (including control panel, FTP, database and
email), in order to prevent any unauthorised account access following the network
intrusion we previously communicated.

Whilst we have found the vulnerability that caused this issue, and have instigated a
system wide security audit to improve and enhance our current security, we also
advised you to change your control panel, FTP and email passwords as a

Today we have been made aware that a small number of our customers who did not
change their passwords have experienced a compromise to their FTP space.

As a result, in order to totally protect all of our customers, we have today
implemented an automatic password change for every control panel, FTP or SQL
password that was not previously reset.

In 10 days time we will also reset all unchanged email passwords.

To ensure complete security when communicating your new passwords to you, we
will first take the stringent measure of sending the new control panel
password via Royal Mail. Once you have received your new control panel
password, you will then be able to go into your control panel and immediately
change your FTP, SQL and email passwords. Please note that the email password
reminder system will not work from the time you receive this mail, to the time you log
in with your new control panel password.

If you have already changed your control panel password, you will still need to go
into your control panel and change ALL the FTP, SQL and email passwords
associated with your accounts that haven't already been changed.


We apologise for the inconvenience that this will cause you during this period, but
trust you understand that our primary concern is for our customers and for the
security of their websites and data. Unfortunately, an automatic password change is
the only way of ensuring that all of our customers are totally secure.

If you have any questions relating to this, please contact our Customer Support
team on 0870 888 3600 or customersupport@fasthosts.co.uk, and they will be
more than happy to help you. Thank you once again for your understanding and
cooperation in this matter. Yours sincerely,

The Fasthosts Team

This is all well and good, however we had already changed our control panel password as reccommended a few weeks ago, yet it has still been reset along with all the other paswords. After over 3 hours on hold (@10p/mi) she eventually got through to their support only to be told that they could not give us a new password and we would have to wait to recieve the new one via the post, which they may or may not get sent out today. In the meantime we are unable to access the account via any means to let people know what is going on, or to move the content to another host.

In our case it is highly annoying, any commercial organistion is likely to be losing money. Fortunately my hosting for various other organisations is elswhere otherwise I would be having to field lots of complaints from people who actually could be losing money.

November 24, 2007

Blood and no Bollocks

Movie image
4 out of 5 stars

Before going I really wasn’t sure that I’d like this animated movie. I remember seeing an animated version of Lord of the Rings years ago and wasn’t impressed, hence my reserve.

Another reason for being uncertain was that I’d also heard the Beowulf story at a proper adult story telling at one of the MAC adult storytelling evenings a few years ago and really enjoyed it. So, I wondered whether this movie would live up to my hopes.

I needn’t have worried, the movie works well – it is after all a bloody good story that has lasted over 1,000 years.

Its a 12A rated film and I wouldn’t recommend that any younger children see it as there is blood and gore in abundance, limbs being ripped off, bodies torn in half, heads chewed, eyes stabbed and a heart ripped pulsing from the chest of a dragon.

Beowulf likes getting his kit off but, like Kenny Everett: “Its all done in the best possible taste” : just as the ‘camera’ scans down his naked body Wiglaf walks into shot and hides the money shot. Beowulf is THE archetypal Alpha Male but also a big show off and the film portrays this well. There is some wenching and bawdy songs are sung.

At only 114 minutes Beowulf is quite short but the advantage is that there aren’t any boring sub-plots or irrelevant diversions.

If you are after laughs then this isn’t for you but if like many you didn’t read English at Oxford and have only really heard of Beowulf as a name then go and see it.

Summary:Action, adventure, myth, blood and no bollocks.

A big glass of mead for Beowulf.

Its all death and destruction today I’m afraid. I’ve just returned home from watching Beowulf and am now writing this entry and rewatching House of Flying Daggers (drinking a bottle of Tsingtao – my favourite Chinese beer – seems appropriate and later I will drink some mead in honour of Beowulf).

I managed to last 3 hours shopping today. Thats a record for me I think but bargains were had. I was after some new jeans and jeans are always a problem for me because I have long but skinny legs. I was after Rush style jeans from Lee but they didn’t have any in Slaters, nor in House of Fraser but I did eventually find some not-half-bad ones in GAP. The plus point of this is that a friend who we met in the shop by chance gave us a 30% off voucher – RESULT!

This wasn’t the end of the bargains, however, as I needed some new shirts and Lewins was just around the corner. What luck! it was Lewins ‘birthday’ and for the small price of an e-mail address they were selling £50 shirts for only £25, ties for 15 and, if you spent over £60, giving away £50 cufflinks – for free! So I saved approximately £135.

3 in 1 outdoor jackets were the last bargain at 20% off RRP. A very snazzy Berghaus Trojan Jacket for me (the liner makes me look like a character from Space 1999) and a North Face for MDW.

Total ‘saving’ for the day=£218.

So this evening… went to see Beowulf for which I have written a short review. Summary: surprisingly good.

Before I post SotD I must go and pour myself a big glass of mead for Beowulf.


November 22, 2007

Save the Golden Cross

Yet another of the few remaining live music venues available for local bands annd unsigned bands from around the country is under threat.  

Due to the (in)actions of the previous owner The Golden Cross in Coventry has lost it's entertainments license A pettition has been set up at http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/savethegoldencross

Usually there are live bands every Thursday and Saturday and an Acoustic night every wednesday, for the time being the band nights have had to be stopped and the acoustic nights are still running  but completely unplugged. This is actually ridiculous as I normallylook after the sound on wednesday nights, last week the enviromental health people were there setting a limiter on the PA for recorded music(or rather getting someone else to as they appear completely clueless as to even the basics of how a PA works). They are actually quite happy for us to play recorded music through the PA at volumes far louder than I would want to, however we are not allowed to plug in an acoustic guitar and a vocal mic, such is the stupidity of the law.

November 19, 2007

Snow was deep and crisp and even

I’ve been lazy and haven’t been keeping up to date with SotD so here it is before i forget.

We had planned going for a walk yesterday but the weather was miserable so stayed in instead. In the evening went to visit some friends to see their new baby and surprise surprise when we came out it had been snowing like there was no tomorrow, real blizzard conditions – I nearly missed a T junction on the way back it was so thick. Even this morning after overnight rain the snow was deep and crisp and even.

November 15, 2007

Rather plain ones with holes in

A busy day and one that started with deep frost on the car and fog on the road, Winter is really giving sign of being just around the corner.
I managed to get to grips with some software in preparation for teaching next week but there is still a lot to do. It looks like I will be busy working this weekend.
I went to the library and checked out a book that looked quite promising – at least from its title – but when I got down to scanning it properly realised that is wasn’t very informative. In fact it was downright staid. Rather than being visionary it has nothing to recommend it – anyone with a slight appreciation of the internet could have written it. So don’t waste your time on Roadmap to the e-Factory by Beavers (2001). Instead, have a nice drink (I made a very nice Dry Martini when I got home) curl up on the sofa, close your eyes and think – you will learn more.

Very discomforting news item about the way disabled children in Serbia are treated. You’d have thought they might have learned from the Romanian orphanage stories a few years back. Tried to watch Pan’s Labyrinth but it was too much like hard work after a long day so saw instead the best item on the telly : Hugh Fearnly-Whittingwahtchumie’s Gone Fishing programme and had a bottle of Leffe Brune.

Finally, rather plain ones with holes in:

November 14, 2007

Whats so bad about the iPhone camera?

Driving in to work at this time of year I often see fantastic sunrises. This may not be the most spectular but it is nice all the same. At least I could take it: I usually don’t have my camera on me and only I then get to experience it.
Sunrise 14/11/07
So what is so bad about the iPhone camera?

evening edit: SoTD

November 13, 2007

From my iPhone

Via a Graduate hotspot.